John Zapotocky Sr.

Posted On October 13th, 2013 -

10-13--565923--John-Zapotocky-SrJOHN ZAPOTOCKY SR. 1918 to 2013 John was born in Brownsville PA., the second son in a family of four boys and four girls. He attended Aliquippa H.S. graduating in 1936 with a specialty in Industrial Arts, with training as a machinist. Upon graduation he joined as an apprentice machinist and worked for four years at Jones and Laughlin Steel. One of his co-workers told him he was headed to Hawaii. John thought that might be an adventure and applied for the same position, but the quota was filled. As luck would have it, his friend decided to get married instead and John got the job. Before he left for Hawaii, John stopped in Washington DC to visit Anne Smisko, a friend he knew from his hometown. John fell in love with Hawaii the moment he arrived and worked from 1941-1945 at Pearl Harbor Naval Air Station then began a career with Hawaiian Pineapple Company (later Dole) that would span over 30 years. He and Anne were married and soon a son John and daughter Barbara were born. John worked during the heyday of pineapple in Hawaii starting as a machinist, becoming a Forman then a Supervisor. He accepted a two-year challenging assignment at Dolefil on Mindanao in the Philippines and often had to use his mechanical know-how and creativity when machinery parts broke and no replacements were available. John and Anne enjoyed the once-in-a-lifetime experience then returned to Hawaii where John retired as Dole’s Superintendant of By-Products. John enjoyed a lifelong love affair with the ocean, especially surfing and canoeing. He earned a steersman’s certificate, allowing him to operate his personal canoe within the commercial surfing areas of Waikiki. He was on a first name basis with surfing luminaries such as Duke Kahanamoku, Rabbit Kekai, Steamboat, Blue Makua, “Pops” Ah Choy and other legendary beach boys. They called him “Zap”. John surfed on a variety of boards and built a surfing canoe dubbed “Pearl Diver”, later building an unsinkable version in fiberglass. In his forties, John became an advocate of stand-up surfing and was a well-known figure at Tongg’s. He would often surf a few at Tongg’s, paddle down to Queen’s, catch a set, then paddle back. In his later years, John changed his surfing venue to Queen’s and Canoe’s and, with his trademark white hair (that rarely got wet), muscled physique and tall paddle, he could be seen in the early morning surf nearly every day. John never claimed to be a legend or to have been the first stand up paddle surfer, but he certainly was one of its most consistent and visible advocates; the subject of many surfing news stories for local, regional and national surfing publications, featured on local TV stations and the subject of a number of U-Tube videos. John was well known as a handyman. He once took at course at the UH then built his own solar panel system that lasted 20+ years. He constantly upgraded the family home, built the concrete stairs at Tongg’s beach, helped neighbors with various projects and was the idol of many kids who needed guidance, tools or supplies for school projects. He once built and fully assembled a tree-house in the backyard and hoisted it in one piece into a mango tree; complete with shingle roof, door, windows and balcony! The neighborhood kids played, climbed and swung to their heart’s content. John’s volunteerism was not limited to family and friends. He was an assistant Scoutmaster and coached little league baseball. When St. Augustine’s Church needed funds to build a new church, John convinced Dole to donate pineapple juice. For over ten years, every Sunday after Mass, John and family manned the Juice Booth. John fought tirelessly to keep the church property from the hands of developers; writing letters (even to the POPE!) and circulating petitions. He was active in keeping fluoride out of Hawaii’s drinking water and in a number of other community health issues. Throughout their lives, John and Anne shared an enduring love and loyal partnership and had a wide range of close friendships. John was a wonderful and loving father who always had time for his children. He was a voracious reader, philosopher, visionary and fabulous storyteller with a great sense of humor. He had a zest for life that was unduplicated and his enthusiasm was contagious. John died seven months and one day after his beloved Anne passed away. He joins Anne in heaven, a reward for living a good life and leaving the world a better place for his actions. John Sr. is survived by his son John Zapotocky III (Cindy), daughter Barbara Cook (Steve), grandsons Levi Stribling (Kerrie), and Alan, Brian, Christopher and Daniel Zapotocky. A memorial celebration of his life will be held on Monday, October 28, 2013. Mass at St. Augustine by the Sea Church in Waikiki at 9:00, followed by scattering of his ashes at Waikiki Beach between Queens and Canoe’s surf spots, followed by a lunch at the Elks Club. Please RSVP by 10/21/13 to 808-927-2476.


- Denotes U.S. Military Veteran